The Projection of Fear
Projection is a natural occurrence where humans press their feelings and emotions on to other people or sometimes even imaginary things. Humans project their emotions into theoretical things because they want to try and make their fears less scary by including them in reality. Many would identify projections as a hallucination, but does this justify the irrational or violent actions that can be caused by them? The savage behavior displayed by those who project their emotions could be completely avoided if the fears were never instilled in their heads. For some people there is nothing more frightening than the unknown. When humans allow these fearful projections to take over, they engage in violent and other unsafe behavior.
In the book, The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, a group of young boys survive a plane crash on a deserted island and are left to fend for themselves. This causes them to begin to hallucinate and project their greatest fears into something they call “the beast.” One of the boys, Simon, has had the most encounters with the so called “beast,” even having a conversation with it at one point. Later, the beast is renamed as “The Lord of the Flies” and appears to Simon as a talking pig’s head on a stick. “‘Pig’s head on a stick.’ ‘Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!’ said the head.”(143) One of Simon’s greatest fears, along with almost all of the other boys on the island, was this so called “beast.” Due to this fear, Simon hallucinated, or projected, this onto the pigs head to include the beast as a part of his reality. As the reader sees in this scene of the book, Simon thinks that he is speaking with the “beast” in the form of a pig’s head, when really, this “beast” is just a projection of his fear. Simon’s withdraw from the real world and adults, causes him to fear the things he has never had to do himself. His fears of starvation, dehydration, and death, are the ones who cause him to project his emotions into the beast.
In a later scene of the novel, Simon makes it back to the camp where the boys were living and things take a turn for the worst. The other boys believe that Simon is connected to the “beast” and end up murdering him for what they think is their own safety. “With the running of the blood Simon’s fit passed into the weariness of sleep. He lay in the mat of creepers while the evening advanced and the cannon continued to play.”(145) The boys projection of fear lead them to go as far as killing one of their own allies. This so called “beast” triggers them to do irrational things, such as killing one of their own allies who they believe the beast is connected to. This is a prime example of how the projection of emotions can lead to atrocious and deadly actions.
Although the book is fictional, the world sees situations like this happen all of the time in the real world. For example, in 2014 two teenage girls attempted to murder their friend because they were convinced that if they did not a fictional character called “the Slenderman” would kill their families. People create unrealistic scenarios in their heads because they are unable to live with their fears, and this can sometimes can cause the person themselves to become the one to fear. In a article about the case from the LA Times, it states, “The two girls came to believe internet folklore about Slender Man so strongly that they thought he would kill them or their families if they didn’t attack.” This is a prime example of how projection can lead people to commit outrageous acts and sometimes even go mad themselves. The girls who tried to commit the murder are now both serving time in mental facilities and will be there for 20 plus years.
Much like the girls in real life, the character’s in the book were fearing the unknown. The boys in the book greatest fears being starvation, death, and dehydration, while the girl’s fears being the death or harm of their loved ones. These fears can lead some to try and commit fatal actions, but others could be lead to actually committing them. The fear of not having control over something is enough to drive people mad, so people are willing to do anything to conquer this fear and feel like they are the ones in control of the situation. When people fear things they tend to let it take over them, but with projection, people push that fear on to other things, rather than themselves. For many this is a way of coping. But does that justify irrational or even violent actions that may come along with that? This debate continues in real life, as the sentencing of the two girls did not go how many thought it would. Many people disagree with the fact that the girls are serving their time in a mental facility instead of an actual jail.
The projection of fear can lead to crazy things. Humans see this in real life, and in fiction everyday. Some people blame fictional characters as to why people may do bad things, others would just blame the mental health of those responsible for the actions. Looking through a sympathetic point of view, one could think that the girls in real life, and the characters in the book only have the mental health of themselves to blame. They both allowed their projection of fear to take over and this lead to their violent and semi-fatal actions. Although their actions were wrong, because of their state of mind, one could argue that they could not help their own actions. All of these savage actions could have been avoided if the fears had never been planted. If everything is presented as the way it is created to be, then then there would be no fear to project.
Golding, William. Lord of The Flies. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Cosgrove, Jaclyn. “The Story behind 'Slender Man' and How Fear of This Fictional Character Nearly Ended in Murder.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 22 Dec. 2017, www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-slenderman-sentencing-20171222-htmlstory.html.
“Psychological Projection.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection.